For 25 years, the GSBA Scholarship Fund has invested in LGBTQ and allied students through financial scholarships. We know that our scholars are the future leaders of our community. In order to create a strong, well-prepared and skilled workforce, we understand our students need support beyond tuition.
This year we are excited to share that GSBA was able to sponsor two students to attend the 27th National Conference on LGBT Equality:Creating Change in Denver. Along with our Scholarship Manager Jessica Wootten, current scholars Angela Tang and Ruben Zecena attended the weeklong conference earlier this month. In their own way, Angela and Ruben each share their experiences at Creating Change. Click here to read Ruben's reflections.
From Angela Tang
My name is Angela Tang. I’m a student at Whitman College and have been a GSBA Scholar for the past two years. Through this, I got the opportunity to attend the national LGBTQ Task Force, Creating Change Conference 2015. The conference was hosted in Denver Colorado with beautiful and consistent 70F weather which I enjoyed from Friday 2/6 to Sunday 2/8.
Each day was composed of four sets of 1.5hour workshops with a lunch break and plenary session in between, in addition to a caucus at the end of the day. I attended 12 different events and I will share with you my experience from three.
One of the first workshops I attended was titled “Art of the Schmooze,” hosted by networking expert Robbie Samuels. This workshop was designed to teach participants how to make the most of their time at Creating Change. As someone who had only been to one previous conference, I was eager to learn about how I could get the most out of Creating Change so that I could apply the knowledge and connections gained, back to Seattle and Whitman College. Robbie Samuels shared an abundance of information that ranged from an eight-step game plan all the way to the smallest details such as which is the best position to stand in for optimal accessibility and how to get out of a(n awkward) conversation. For example, one of the best networking opportunities is not only to stay after an event to greet and meet the speakers, but also to make conversation with those who also are in line to meet the speaker. The implication is that those in line may share common interest with you and are also eager to make the most of their experience. I was able to use these skills throughout the rest of the conference, and will continue to use my cultivated skills through College and beyond.
“At The Table Making Changes: LGBTQ Leadership,” featured a panel of four elected officials. Which included Mayor of Somerset, Maryland Jeffrey Slavin; former Colorado Speaker of House Mark Ferrandino; and was moderated by Victory Fund Fund Institute Speaker Jaan Williams. With a panel of four successful LGBTQ elected officials, I was able to gain valuable insight to what the process of what being an LGBTQ official meant. A common consensus among the officials was that they chose not to sponsor any case related to LGBTQ issues during their first few years to avoid being known as the LGBTQ official. Curious to the reasoning, I posed the question of “Why did ya’ll choose to not sponsor LGBTQ cases during their first few years when those were issues ya’ll cared about, and as a LGBTQ elected official would actually have power to create the change for?” The answer to this was unanimous. If you were elected, you wouldn’t be elected only based on your LGBTQ identity likewise, there wouldn’t be enough pull to lose solely based upon being LGBTQ. Therefore, there would be a lot more other things that you would care about. By sponsoring issues not relating to LGBTQ issues at first, you gain power through establishing allies in supporting other’s endeavors and avoid marginalizing certain people who could help you win LGBTQ cases. Very cool!
One of my goals for this conference was to establish my network of Queer Asian Pacific Islanders. I attended “Mapping Power: LGTQ AAPI Organizing for Change,” as well as the Asian/South Asian/Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander Caucus. Through these sessions, I was able to make meaningful connections with other Queer AAPI folks, who were undergoing similar issues as I was in regards to assimilation, internalized racism, difficulty connecting with the LGBTQ community while simultaneously being ostracized from the API community for being LGBTQ. It felt very validating to be in that space where we explored a brief history of Queer API Americans and shared our struggles. Additionally, we spoke about API involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, something I have been questioning for a while now.
In addition to these great sessions, I enjoyed some incredible food, great company by Jessica Wootten and Ruben Zecena, the Drag Show on Friday night, and the 50+ Allies dance on Saturday.
I’d like to thank the GBSA for continually supporting my endeavors and needs. Their financial support, emotional support, and professional development opportunities continue to enrich my life. I will take from this conference an understanding that creating change for the LGBTQ community in particular, takes a lot of consideration of intersectional identities, and a lot of collaboration. Additionally, I learned that no one who is working on creating change is doing so alone.
Lastly, thanks to Jessica Wootten for coordinating the logistics of this excursion exquisitely and for being there always for support.
All my best,